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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

Turning 21 is a huge milestone for young Americans. It’s no doubt an exhilarating time, but with all the going out options it can be hard to know where to start. Never fear! We’ve got the top 10 neighborhoods nationwide for bars, food, culture, and all the other nightlife you can handle.

RELATED: These are the best beach bars in America

East village: New York City

First up on this list is the birth place of New York punk: East Village. While CBGB, the bar that started it all, has been closed for years, a mix of classic institutions like Mona’s (cheap Guinness Thursdays!) and new favorites such as Maiden Lane keep the drinks, bites and music flowing. When you need a good meal to bust the next morning’s hangover, stop by Yellow Rose for some central Texas–style tacos. Or you could head to Punjabi Grocery and Deli for some fantastic $1 samosas.

Where to stay: Four Points SoHo Village

Pacific Beach: San Diego

Don’t forget your surfboard and bathing suit when you’re heading out for this never-ending beach party. We’re hitting up Shore Club to start the night with $5 beers and ocean views; afterward, The Local Pacific Beach has you covered with Big Ass Nachos and frozen piña coladas until 2am. To bust the hangover the next morning, you can’t beat Kono’s egg burritos.

Where to stay: Beach Haven

Little Five Points: Atlanta

You like weird? Good, because L5P, as the locals call it, has all the weird you can handle. Topping just about everyone’s list is Vortex. Housed in a skull with glowing vortexes for eyes, this 21+ joint serves up killer burgers alongside an impressive list of local brews, 22 single malt Scotches and a selection of moonshine. While we wouldn’t fault you for just holing up at Vortex, if you do make it out, shops like Criminal Records and vintage shop Junkman’s Daughter are well worth the trip, as are too many other stand out bars in this neighborhood to name.

Where to stay: The In-town Spot

Bardstown Road: Louisville

More a thoroughfare of great bars, music and food  than a neighborhood, Bardstown Road just about reigns supreme for a night out in the Upper South. We’re starting at Bambi, because on Bardstown Road you have to start at Bambi. If you’re really feeling it, you could even attempt the Bambi walk. About 20 bars, 3 miles, you have to get a drink in each one. No water, no virgin this or that. A drink at every. Single. Bar. If that’s a little more booze than you’re ready for, Shakespeare themed The Bard’s Town is serving up Midsummer Night’s Greens, To Bean (Or Not To Bean) burgers and the First Folio Fish to help soak up all that alcohol. And if you prefer your drinks outdoors, hit up the Holy Grail, a bar in a converted centuries-old church that has one of the best beer gardens in town.

Where to stay: The Heart of Louisville Apartment

Rainey Street: Austin

Largely made up of Craftsman style houses turned bars, Rainey Street has something for the casual or serious bar goer any time of day. Craft Pride showcases an extensive selection of Texas beer and wine, not to mention a killer BBQ food truck and live music out back. What happens when you stack seven shipping containers on a street corner? Nightlife entrepreneur Bridget Dunlap tried it when she created the obviously named Container Bar and found out you get a really cool layout with plenty of open space to chill, drink and listen to live music. If you’re looking for food, head on over to Bangers for sausages ranging from classic bratwurst to duck, bacon and fig, all on a bun. They’ve also got housemade pickles and local watermelon.

Where to stay: Homewood Suites Downtown Austin

Adams Morgan: Washington, DC

Known best for its nightlife, DC’s Adams Morgan is full of can’t miss spots for 20 somethings. Splurge on a meal at the Michelin starred Tail Up Goat before getting your evening look together at the universally recommended Meep’s Vintage. Drinks like the Desert Falcon and Faloodeh Swizzle are on hand at Middle East inspired Green Zone or head to the two level Town Tavern; it’s a lowkey turn-of-the-century pub on the ground floor, DJ driven dance floor up top.

Where to stay: The LINE Hotel DC

Logan Square: Chicago

Just a quick CTA Blue Line ride away from Chicago’s bustling downtown is something of a haven for 20 somethings. Logan Square is packed full of good pizza, cheap beer, arcade bars and concert venues. Get off the Blue line at California and walk across the street for a PB&J Special—that’s a big slice of pizza, a can of PBR, and shot of Jameson for $10—from the cash-only Boiler Room. Another cool deal here: Use the ATM in the bar and bring your receipt to the bartender for a free shot. Not in the mood for pizza? Get in on the Hong Kong street food lunch specials from Friendship Chinese before you catch a show at Concord Music Hall. After the show head to Logan Arcade for beers and arcade games until 2am.

Where to stay: The Robey

RiNo: Denver

Known locally as RiNo, Denver’s River North neighborhood is full of old warehouses and factories hosting art spaces for the city’s creatives. Head over to 2424 Larimer Street on Fridays for the RiNo Art District Night Bazaar. Featuring over 40 vendors selling craft cocktails, beer, fashion, and food trucks, it’s a can’t miss. If it’s not Friday, stop by Our Mutual Friend’s vibrant store front for a local brew or six. For food in RiNo, we’re headed to Osaka Ramen and then going to tour the artist studios and galleries at the Dry Ice factory.

Where to stay: The Charming Cowboy S

Belltown: Seattle

Belltown is almost tailor made for the newly minted 21 year old. Right on the water front, it’s one Seattle’s most walkable neighborhoods and full of coffee shops, restaurants, little boutiques and, yes, all the nightlife you could ask for. Start your day off right with the Bitchwich Combo Deal from Biscuit Bitch. Then take a wander through the Olympic Sculpture Park before heading to the renowned 5 Point Café where happy hour happens 4–6pm, a burger’s $3.50 and you get $2 off draft pints. Then, play some skeeball while sipping some excellent cocktails at Rabbit Hole ‘till midnight.

Where to stay: The Belltown Inn

Downtown: Raleigh

Raleigh, North Carolina, is something of a hidden gem across the board. The city has 10 colleges and universities, and a significant student population that keep the nightlife rocking all year long. Don’t miss the Raleigh Beer Garden where you can sample a world-record holding 350 different beers on tap. Go back to the roaring ‘20s at the Green Light, listed as one of Thrillist’s best secret bars in the world (it’s tucked behind a book shelf at the Architect Bar and Social House). Meanwhile, State of Beer has you covered for all your sandwich needs and, of course, even more beer. Get some local fashion at Edge of Urge or across the street at Unlikely Professionals, which also has a full beer/wine bar.

Where to stay: Raleigh Marriott City Center

Tagged: California, Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Chicago, City, Destinations, Food & drink, New York City, seattle, Texas, Top 10 list, Types of Travel, Washington DC

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Zach Cunning

Zach Cunning

Zach’s love of travel has led to him walking Roman roads along the Camino de Santiago, bartending throughout South America, surfing the Atlantic coast of Morocco and teaching backpackers everywhere the fine art of shaking up the perfect margarita. When he’s not traveling, Zach lives, works and studies in Chicago.

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